In a sport where style points (luckily) don't count, the Phillies played a little "prettier" than the Reds in claiming a 7-4 victory and a 2-0 lead in their best of five NLDS.
In Game One, Roy Halladay was the clear star; in Game Two, the Phils mostly benefited from the largesse of their visitors.
One knew that tonight's script would be different when it took all of four pitches for starter Roy Oswalt to lose his shutout bid. Leadoff hitter Brandon Phillips, deposited a lackluster Oswalt change-up deep into the leftfield seats.
The Reds scored again in the second inning, primarily because of Chase Utley's errant arm. Laynce (correct spelling) Nix got to first base after Utley made a fine grab ranging to his glove side, but pulled Ryan Howard off the bag with his throw. Nix would score on a Ryan Hannigan grounder to Rollins who threw to Utley for the force.
Trying to complete the 6-4-3 double play, Utley's throw—affected by a hard-sliding Drew Stubbs—bounced by Howard.
The Reds' unearned run—set up by Utley's two errors—would be a harbinger for the wild things to come.
The Reds' third run was clean: a monster, second-deck home-run by Jay Bruce to lead off the fourth. And the Reds would score another single run in the fifth highlighted by a Phillips double and a Joey Votto sacrifice fly.
Oswalt would be pulled after a very short (by his standards) five innings of work, snapping a string of gems that he has authored at Citizens Bank Park.
To his credit, he did kept the game close, and the second half of the game would be all Phillies—helped immeasurably by the Reds' uncharacteristic putrid play.
The Fightins got to starter Bronson Arroyo, sort of, in the bottom of the fifth. It was a two-out rally ignited by a fielding error from the normally sure-handed Phillips and a bad throw by rocket-armed third baseman Scott Rolen. With the bases jammed, Utley made them pay with a two-run single to right.
After JC Romero and Chad Durbin combined to keep the Reds off the board in the sixth, the Phils would get one more back when Shane Victorino drew a bases loaded walk.
How did the Phillies load the bases? A Jayson Werth leadoff walk, and two hit batsmen: Carlos Ruiz was nailed on his left knee, and Ben Francisco, in a scary moment, was beaned in the helmet.
But if you thought the bottom of the sixth was ugly, it was Spalding Guide-pretty compared to the bottom of the seventh.
With the heralded, fireballing rookie Aroldis Chapman on the hill, it did not seem that the Phils would be able to touch the phenom. Chapman immediately got two strikes on Utley, but then came inside on Chase, who immediately ran to first base with the apparent hit-by-pitch. Was it a Derek Jeter-esque bluff?
Whatever the case, with Utley on first, Chapman blew away Howard on three straight pitches before inducing Werth to hit a one-hopper to Rolen. Rolen fielded it cleanly and threw to second to try to get the force out on Utley. Utley was ruled safe on the bang-bang play
Things were just getting really interesting.
Jimmy Rollins then hit a sinking liner to right that Bruce turned into a two-base error when he seemed to lose the "can of corn" in the lights. The ball rolled past him, and Utley scored the tying run.
Werth also scored on the bizarre play when Phillips dropped the relay throw. Two errors on the play, four errors for the game, and the Phillies found themselves with a 6-4 lead.
Riding a super bullpen effort—two hits and no runs in three innings of work—the two-time defending NL champs tacked on a seventh run more conventionally. Werth singled in Utley who had singled and stolen second. Actually, the stolen base could've been ruled a wild pitch, but Utley was credited with the pilfered bag as he wasrunning on the play.
All of this craziness set the stage for closer Brad Lidge to enter the ninth with a three-run cushion. It appeared that he might need all of those runs when he walked leadoff man Bruce. But this was not the Reds night, and Lidge retired the next three batters to save the game for winning pitcher Jose Contreras and give the Phils a 2-0 lead in the series.
On a night when Roy wasn't Halladay and was also a poor version of Oswalt, the Phillies won an ugly game that neither team really deserved to win.
But with a 2-0 series lead, and Hamels on the hill in Game Three (with the Reds needing to beat him and Halladay at some point if they're going to win this series), the Phils will look back on this as a thing of beauty.
Any resemblance between tonight's Reds and the Reds team that tied the Padres for fewest errors in the league—with only 72—was purely accidental. And the Cincy players who were guilty of errors were: second baseman Brandon Phillips (two), third baseman Scott Rolen, (a throwing error and a poor choice to throw to second on the Werth bouncer) and right fielder Jay Bruce (losing the ball in the lights was the key play of the game) are among the best in the league at their positions.
The game featured six errors (four by second basemen), two wild pitches and three hit batsmen. Only two of the Phils' seven runs were earned.
Reds starter Bronson Arroyo has the most innings pitched in the NL since 2006, his first year in the league. Thanks, TBS, for that stat.
Brandon Phillips' leadoff home run was the Reds' first postseason hit since Slow Eddie Taubensee did so in 1995. No, these have not been the Reds of Rose, Bench and Morgan the last 15 years—or tonight, for that matter.
The starters for Game Three—a tentative 7:07 p.m. Sunday start at Cincinnati—will be Cole Hamels against Johnny Cueto. 7-oh-7?